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Rare van Gogh fetches £38 million

A rare piece of artwork painted by Vincent van Gogh weeks before his death has sold for 61.8 million dollars (£38.6m) at a sale kicking off New York City's autumn auctions of impressionist and modern art.

The 1890 painting Still Life, Vase With Daisies And Poppies had expected to fetch between 30 and 50 million dollars (£18.7-£31.2m) at Sotheby's evening sale in Manhattan. The auction record for a van Gogh is 82.5 million dollars (£51.5m).

Van Gogh painted the bouquet of wild flowers at the French home of his physician, Dr Paul Gachet. It is one of the few works the Dutch artist sold during his lifetime.

One of the founders of the Museum of Modern Art, Conger Goodyear, acquired it in 1928. It remained in the family for decades and was on permanent exhibition at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo for 30 years. The most recent owner bought it around 1990.

The big-ticket auction at Sotheby's also brought in 101 million dollars (£63.1m) for Chariot, a rare sculpture by Alberto Giacometti. The 1951 bronze sculpture features an elongated, goddess-like figure perched atop a wheeled chariot. The price almost broke the 104.3 million-dollar (£65.1m) record for the Swiss artist.

The 1951 piece, embellished with paint to enrich the textural quality of the bronze, has been in the same collection for more than 40 years. Giacometti made six casts of the Chariot during his lifetime. The one just sold is one of only two painted examples.

Another important sculpture sold at the auction was Amedeo Modigliani's Tete. It fetched 70.7 million dollars (£44.1m), just topping the previous auction record for the artist at 69 million dollars (£43.1m).

The elongated head was carved in 1911 and 1912 from a block of limestone scavenged from a Paris building site. It had a pre-sale estimate of 45 million dollars (£28.1m).

The major autumn sales will continue at Christie's. Among the highlights is Spring, a celebrated portrait of a Parisian actress by Edouard Manet. It has a pre-sale estimate of 25-35 million dollars (£15.6-£21.8m).

Auction house Bonhams, which is selling more than 700 items from the homes of Lauren Bacall, offered two Henry Moore sculptures from her collection.

Maquette For Mother and Child: Arms sold for 281,000 dollars (£175,600), over its pre-sale estimate high of 200,000 dollars (£125,000), and Working Model For Reclining Figure: Bone Skirt, sold for more than one million dollars (£625,000), topping its pre-sale estimate of 600,000-800,000 dollars (£375,000-£500,000).

The legendary actress' other artwork, jewellery and furniture will be offered for sale in March.

All prices included the buyer's premium.

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